MAESTEG 5 points NEATH 45 points
Neath opened their pre-season warm-up programme with an encouraging 7-try win at Maesteg who were celebrating the official re-opening of their splendid new clubhouse three years to the day that their old one was burnt down.
The Neath starting line-up showed no fewer than nine new faces who have yet to play a league game for the All Blacks and they introduced a couple more from the replacements’ bench in the second-half but they produced some slick running rugby and classic tries to keep the fair-sized crowd entertained.
After hard-working lock Tom Hayward crossed to give Neath an early lead, the result was never in doubt but Maesteg showed commendable tenacity throughout and should do well in Division 1 West this season.
Neath warmed to their task with forwards Ryan Thomas, Charlie Davies, Alun Jones and captain Jordan Collier often to the fore and some first-rate handling from the backs saw further first-half tries flow from full back Gareth Morris, winger Aaron Graham and centre Gavin Evans who formed a classy midfield pairing with Matthew Pearce.
Outside-half Iwan Evans, despite a tendency to hit the woodwork, converted three and added the points to two more in the second-half as winger Aaron Grabham sprinted over to complete his hat-trick either side of a popular try at the posts by lock Jon Barley and just before the end, Maesteg got a well-deserved try by centre Sam Griffiths.
Far harder tasks lie ahead for Neath – starting at Moseley on Saturday – but the coaches were well pleased with this first outing.
Gareth Llewellyn said, “Overall, it was a good effort and one or two of the youngsters did even better than we expected. A couple of injuries disrupted things a bit and the penalty count against us was a concern. But it was a positive start and full marks to Maesteg who are well-coached and made us work hard – which was just what we wanted.”